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Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
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What a wonderful gesture; it's rare acts like this that restore one's faith in humankind and make today's world seem not quite such a mad/bad place.

NigelS

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The French do remember.

Kim, you are so right. I omitted to say earlier (and slapped wrists are in order!) that, at one point towards the end of Saturday’s question time, one gentleman requested of the Embassy official permission to close the meeting with a minute’s silence “in honour of all these young men who died here in our community and whose graves have finally been found”.

One of the things which was made perfectly clear to us that morning was that the inhabitants of Fromelles and its surrounding area are concerned that these men will be removed from their community. Whilst the memory of the 1915 battle had slipped a little from living memory, the memory of the 1916 battle is as fresh in their minds as ever. They are living with it, after all.

V.

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Litlle message from Lambis for Sandra, Tim and Andrew... at noon at the end of the "vin d'honneur"

"I've been here for 3 months and I am a little sad, I go tonight and I'll be at home Sunday ..."

AND : All's good !

Michel

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"This field is not mine, it belongs only to those who are buried there,"

Thank you, Michel. I’ve had to be very careful over the course of the last few months to ensure that I haven’t stated anything before the information has been officially released. However, if Madame has now stated publicly that the field belongs to the men, I don’t think I’m breaching any rules in saying that this wonderful lady came to this decision some time ago. If the men remain at Pheasant Wood, what a wonderful gift she has given them and their families.

Michel, do you have any other photos I can “pinch”? I’m hoping to put together a portfolio for the Association.

V.

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I have been following events at Fromelles for around 4yrs now, ever since the very first phone call with Lambis. I have, I believe, read just about everything said so far about the dig over the last 3 weeks, I have taken on board many peoples comments and opinions, evryone is entitled to have their say. But I can honestly say what I have read to-day has realy reached me, seeing the pic of the service and reading what the people of Fromelles feel about "their men" it has given me a lump in the throat the size of a golf ball.

God bless everyone connected with the investigation, from the tea maker right to the top, God Bless You All.

Colin Stalgis

Gregory Francis Stalgis, 14th Machine Gun Co, KIA-19th/20th, July, 1916 - Fromelles, found at last ?

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I've been waiting for this to appear. The BBC's interview with Peter Barton and what seems very much his own personal view.

V.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7452960.stm

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Surely they must rest at Fromelles. If my missing Great Uncle was known to be among them, I would not want all their rest disturbed to pursue a perhaps modest chance that his actual physical remains could be identified.

To paraphrase Plumer - "They are not missing - they are here." Surely this is enough, if in tribute we ensure that "here" is

latterly transformed into a place of renewed remembrance where their rest is guaranteed with honour.

Many thanks are due to the people of Fromelles for their support.

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What a great gesture by the lady owner of the land, very nice to see. Ian, in full agreement, they should rest at Fromelles where they have been at rest for the past ninety plus years with their pals, IMHO, with the site put into the hands of the CWGC ensuring an appropriate place for commemoration and rememberance.

Andy

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Michel ... thank you for passing on the message :)

We all owe Lambis a huge debt of gratitude...

As for the wonderful news about the offering of the land to the CWGC ... what an honour to us all ... and another huge debt of gratitude ...

There will be a lot of thank you's, hand shakes and back slapping when the boys meet up with all those involved.

Bless Them All!

Sandra

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To the good lady who hs donated her land, thank you. to the community of Fromelles, indeed as said, they are part of your community and you have looked after them for so long. To everyone who has had any involvement so far, thank you,

Chris H

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Hello to all

I have been reading with interest the comments of those who have varied opinions on this current event.

First, may I say that the work being done by all parties involved with the dig is a mammoth effort and not to be taken lightly in consideration of the technical difficulties.

Why am I interested? Well, like a few on this forum I have a personal involvement with Fromelles. My great uncle was killed on the night of 19th July behind german lines, his body was never identified, no personal effects were ever found or returned home.

He is commemorated at the VC Corner, however, he could just as easily be at Pheasant Wood, although some may disagree with this assumption.

If DNA testing were possible, and I say if, in relation to the geological and forensic conditions, then it may prove whether he lies there or not. As one of his family descendants I believe I have come to know and love him throughout the years, my great grandmother often spoke to me with sadness of her four brothers who went to war. Two of them fought side by side at the battle of Fromelles, only one to return.

Not only am I an historical researcher and author but also a medical scientist with particular interest in genetics and DNA, currently working on several DNA projects to prove links within family histories.

Having said all this, I for one would truly like to know the final resting place of my great uncle, however, now we have established the fact that there are Australians and British at Pheasant Wood and with the kind offer to donate the land as a memorial, perhaps we should be happy to now let them all rest in peace. I think we all agree that the missing are there, some in VC Corner, others Pheasant Wood and other places. As long as a fitting memorial is made, then I think our soldiers would be glad that we have spent the time and energy to find them, let history be the judge of our efforts.

Julie

Vale: Private Andrew Gilbert - KIA 19th July Fromelles, Age 22

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Thankyou, Michel and Victoria, for your updates and good news.

Madame has made a generous offer, one that shows just how much the French value those that helped them so long ago.

Merci beaucoup, Madame.

Kim

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Now that Madame has very generously donated the land containing the burial pits to the memory of those resting there, it would seem that the path is open for the enclosure of the sites and the erection of appropriate memorials to the soldiers who will then lay undisturbed for perpetuity. In Britain we have today received the news of the awards granted by HM The Queen on the occasion of her official birthday. In my opinion it would be very appropriate for Madame to be awarded an official honour for her great compassion and generosity in ceding this, her land to the memory of those who gave their lives so many years ago.

Norman

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I for one would truly like to know the final resting place of my great uncle, however, now we have established the fact that there are Australians and British at Pheasant Wood and with the kind offer to donate the land as a memorial, perhaps we should be happy to now let them all rest in peace.

Julie

Vale: Private Andrew Gilbert - KIA 19th July Fromelles, Age 22

Julie - I am sure many of us will agree with you wholeheartedly - but all opinions have to be taken into account, of course.

I also concur with the suggestion of an honour for Madame on behalf of Fromelles. Much more deserving than some announced today.

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Was the Ceremony at Fromelles open to Members of the Public or just the select few ? :glare:

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Was the Ceremony at Fromelles open to Members of the Public or just the select few ? :glare:

I would assume that, as Michel was there, it must have been open to the public, but I'm sure that Michel himself can confirm that.

V.

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He is commemorated at the VC Corner, however, he could just as easily be at Pheasant Wood, although some may disagree with this assumption.

Julie, forgive me for saying so, but that does seem like quite an assumption. The Germans took the identity tags and personal belongings from the men before burying them at Pheasant Wood, these belongings eventually being returned to the next-of-kin via the Red Cross. If you are unaware of this having occurred within your family, then I very much suspect that your relative is not one of the men buried here and any attempt at a DNA match between yourself (or a relative) and the remains of one of these men would be pointless. However, if you have good reason to believe that your relative was buried at Pheasant Wood, I know that we’d all love to hear of it.

Incidentally, you say that your relative was killed behind German lines, although no personal effects were ever retrieved and no body identified. Could you tell us some more in order to give us a better picture of what happened? The only reason I ask is that last Sunday I met a lovely Australian couple from Melbourne who were introduced to me by Lambis. They were in the Fromelles area as the husband had lost a relative at Fromelles on 19th July 1916. He said that his great-uncle’s body was not “brought in" until the end of the war. I told him how lucky he was that his relative had been identified as my own relative was one of the thousands of “missing”. He agreed with me and then told me that he was off to see if he could find him at VC Corner! I didn’t have the heart to correct him, but just shot Lambis a look which said “over to you!”

V.

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Can I say that GUARD has not received the accolades they should have so far. I recall last year the howls and guffaw's from many, over the supposed quality of research and the methodology employed by GUARD when MANY, and no doubt some here at the GWF, were still saying nothing was there, despite GUARD's preliminary report.

Chris - well said indeed! GUARD should be congratulated wholeheartedly for the work they have done.

It is no surprise that their detractors are quiet.

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I don't think any of us can comment on the technical quality of the work done on site this week. All we know is a brief precis of the discoveries. I seem to recall that one area of controversy was the high cost of these works and the fact that an apparently competent team had offered to do the work gratis.

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Julie, forgive me for saying so, but that does seem like quite an assumption. The Germans took the identity tags and personal belongings from the men before burying them at Pheasant Wood, these belongings eventually being returned to the next-of-kin via the Red Cross.

Dear Victoria

I have learnt over the years that one can never assume anything to be totally correct when it comes to dealing with military history. I have no illusions as to whether my relative is at VC Corner or Pheasant Wood, all I know is that he is there "somewhere". My g.grandmother. however, believed until her dying day that her brother would come walking back through the door, primarily because no body or belongings were ever identified.

A standard letter written to the family from the Base Record Office in 1921 (5 years after the event) states " that not withstanding the efforts of our graves services unit, we have so far been unable to obtain any trace of the last resting place of your son" and asked if the family had any information.

Andrew's brother Owen who was in the same battle wrote in reply (abv) " my brother among others of my company © reached the German front line ... I was told by a stretcher bearer W.Crisp that he saw my brother dead a few yards the other side of the German front line, he had crossed the first line of trenches ... our battalion was obliged to fall back ... all killed and wounded were left in enemy lines ... I am convinced that he was buried by the enemy as lots of my unfortunate mates were"

As I am sure you will agree none of us who have family that were listed as missing or unidentified can be absolutely positive that they rest where we were told. In the case of Fromelles and Pheasant Wood, yes, we have a list of names and identities given by the Germans to the Red Cross, however, can we be absolutely certain that these were the only Australians they buried? Equally, can we be certain that the unidentified at VC Corner represent the names allocated to them? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the press denying the existance of any remains at Pheasant Wood only a short while ago?

With all this said, I fully understand that DNA is not the 'miracle fix' to all our questions, for me I have already had mine done and as a direct line from Andrew's mother should be a match with his mitiochondrial DNA. I cannot say with any positivity where Andrew may be buried, but his brother seemed to think it was by the Germans, while there is this doubt in my mind then I believe anything may be possible, but as I said in my previous email perhaps we should let them now rest in peace. It is not so much a matter of just having names on a wall, it is a matter of knowing that they are really there, I think this applies not only to Fromelles but every place where soldiers throughout the world may have fought, died and remain unidentifed to this day.

I hope this clarifies my thoughts on the matter and I am very happy to participate in anything of relevance should an identification process ever progress.

Cheers

Julie

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Hello everyone,

This is my first post to this forum. I hope this is in the right place. In regards to the dead of Fromelles I sent this letter off to the main newspaper here in Brisbane and will also send it off to our pollies down in Canberra. It refers to the Aussies but if I was living in England I'd be sending it to the Times about the Tommies buried there as well.

The dead of Fromelles, an inconvenience of numbers

The passage of time is not an excuse for 170 dead Australian diggers and numerous British "tommies" to be left in a pit where the Germans threw them in July 1916. It is easy for politicians just to fob it off and stick a memorial over the site. What an inconvenience that so many soldiers are there - if it was five or six soldiers then DNA samples would be taken and every effort made to identify them. Their sheer quantity of numbers now makes them an inconvenience, much the same as the WW1 survivors found themselves when they returned to Australia after the war. When we say "Lest we Forget" we should mean it. Each soldier must be attempted to be identified and each soldier should be individually reburied. Imagine the hue and cry if 170 Aussie diggers were killed by theTaliban, thrown in a pit and when we found them all we did was stick a memorial over them? They died for our country, we will remember them.

Len

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Len

Welcome to the forum. I hope that you will stay with us.

I understand your feelings, but there are some points that you should consider.

The dead, British and Australian, were not just thrown in a pit. That would be to malign the German troops who in the middle of a war retrieved and returned personal possessions and identity documents apparently in most if not all cases at Fromelles. The interview with Peter Barton that can be linked to from an earlier post makes it fairly clear that the dead were treated with respect, despite the urgencies of a war.

The dedicated research that has been done must surely fall short of finding potential DNA matches from the current generation for more than a proportion of the dead. What proportion I wonder? There will be many for whom no modern comparison exists - should their remains be dug up, held for months or years without reburial?

Others have suggested that there may be serious technical challenges in finding surviving DNA material in the remains because of the nature of the ground and the technique of burial. I lack the knowledge to assess such a comment, but I am aware of the problems that existed in the Balkans in identifying the remains of the victims of the war crimes committed there in much more recent times.

For these reasons, with all respect to individuals feelings, I would personally much prefer these graves to be honoured like those of so many other of our Great War dead where they lie. We can respect their memory without disturbing their remains further. The powers that be should let them rest in peace, and protect and commemorate their resting place in a fitting manner. The generous action of the landowner makes that possible.

The comparison with the treatment of the dead in current military conflicts is surely just not on for the reasons that I have given above, and for the clear evidence that identification of whatever proportion of the dead would be in itself both lengthy and arguably show a lack of respect for the many who would never be identified.

Keith

Keith

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I am Happy for all involved that the Dig has reached some sort of conclusion,the dig itself has hardly generated much Public interest over here. Had the Media coverage mentioned more about the British contribution at Fromelles it may have raised more awareness amongst surviving relatives of the British Missing.IMHO the Media coverage was biased,And it was over before it began.I can appreciate the need for security but maybe the whole Enterprise could have been more open and Transparent.

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